At a time when Kathmandu’s hotels are reeling from the collapse of the tourism industry, the government could have easily designated different categories of hotels for quarantine and set a room tariff for each.
For international airlines, what is most frustrating is that the CCMC this time has not set a date on when charter, or regular flights can resume. International airlines are all in wait-and-watch mode, and have had to cancel up to 5,000 passengers who had been booked on outbound flights from Kathmandu in the coming weeks.
Domestic airlines which were set to resume operations on 17 August have also been told to postpone the restart indefinitely. But the operators, whose planes have been grounded for five months, say they cannot do so any longer and have threatened action if flights are not allowed to resume on 31 August. The government says the spread of Covid-19 has put Tarai cities under lockdown, so there will be no passengers anyway.
“The government should just allow flights, and let us worry about passengers. We have done our rehearsals with safety protocols and can operate safely,” says Birendra Basnet of Buddha Air, Nepal’s largest domestic airline.
Nepal Airlines which had 17 repatriation flights and Himalaya Airlines with 14 flights from the Gulf and Malaysia have cancelled charter flights scheduled for the next two weeks, leaving thousands of Nepali workers stranded. This phase of repatriation flights would have been from 17-31 August and would have brought in 7,000 passengers.
More than 51,000 Nepalis have returned on repatriation flights since they started on 15 June, but there are still another 250,000 who have registered with various embassies to return home. Previous passengers all needed coronavirus negative certificates, and were tested again on arrival and allowed to go home to self-isolate if they were negative.
Public health sources say the real danger of virus influx is from those coming unregulated across the land border, and not so much those who fly in because of the strict rules on having PCR negative tests 72 hours prior to departure.